Jewish Burial Garments

When planning a loved one’s funeral, many people may automatically assume that staging the decedent’s attire is necessary for burial. Depending on the religion, this may be the case, as many faiths bury the departed in beloved or formal articles of clothing and accessories. However, Jewish funeral customs establish that burial garments be simple and uniform for all.  

Before dressing, there is a customary, multi-step process to prepare the body for burial after death. Succeeding the cleansing of the body during a ritual bath, the deceased are wrapped in a traditional shroud or tachrichimThe shroud consists of a shirt, pants, head covering, belt and for some, a long jacket known as a kittel (if the kittel was worn by the deceased on Yom Kippur or Passover, it would be provided by the family), and a wrapping sheet.   

These coverings are said to resemble the plain linen clothing worn by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. The shroud is a gauzy fabric, handmade from muslin or linen and generally white, with no fasteners (buttons, snaps, zippers) of any kind. There are also no pockets, as it believed that carrying earthly possessions has no value in the afterlife. In continuing with this belief, no jewelry, accessories or adornments of any kind are worn. Lastly, men or women (if they wore one) may be buried with a kipah and prayer shawl tallit, with one of the fringes or tzisit cut to represent that death ends the individual’s obligation to perform Mitzvot. 

This minimalistic burial symbolizes equality and purity. Both represent the belief that the wealthy or poor are equal and that the body comes from the earth and therefore, is returned to the earth after death.  

The shroud can be provided by the memorial chapel as part of the funeral preparations. Tallit or kipot may also be provided if necessary, but usually will be dropped off by family members prior to the preparation of the body.  

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult. Being informed can help to alleviate any additional burden when death occurs. We are here to assist with any questions pertaining to burial garments or any other aspect of funeral planning. 

Dressing for a Jewish Funeral

What to wear is one of the most common questions that we ask ourselves on a daily basis. For most occasions, we have a general idea of how we are expected to dress. However, when a loss occurs and it  time to pay our respects, it may be questionable as to what is appropriate. The one thing to keep in mind is that different religions or cultures may have different customs. When attending a Jewish funeral, the following generally applies:

Appropriate Colors/Attire
Modest, conservative clothing is best. As this is a time of mourning, bright or flashy attire should be avoided. Anything that you wear should be neat and tidy.  Suits, dress shirts and slacks for men and dresses for women should be in the gray, black or brown family. Men should complete their suit with a tie. Dress shoes are suggested and comfort is key. For women, keep in mind that while at the cemetery, you’ll be walking and standing on grass which may not be easy to do in heels.

Head Covering
Men of all religions must cover their head with a yarmulke, which may be personal or provided by the chapel, if needed. Women may be asked to wear a scarf or lace head covering.

Weather Considerations
Grave site burial can take place at any time of the year, in any type of weather. If taking place during the summer months, appropriate attire should still be worn. If you choose to wear a sleeveless blouse or dress, a cardigan or blazer is a good choice to complete your outfit. When deciding on shoes, avoid open toe options.  If during the winter, be sure to dress with a warm coat, hat, gloves, and scarf. Don’t forget an umbrella if it’s raining.

At Star of David Memorial Chapel, we are here to help you. Contact us with any questions that may arise during this difficult time.

Shiva Etiquette

Losing a loved one or someone you are close to is never easy. Making sure you are honoring them properly is important. In the Jewish religion many families sit Shiva. Shiva is defined as a period of seven days of formal mourning for the dead, beginning immediately after the funeral. Shiva normally takes place in the home of the person who is grieving. Friends and family come during those seven days to send their condolences and support the grieving family. Below we have given some Shiva etiquette to follow.

When entering the Shiva House
In many situations the door to the Shiva house is left unlocked. Many people tend to enter and leave as they please. There is no knocking, you simply just enter on your own. Some homes do ask that you remove your shoes at the door, but that is based upon the Shiva home. If that is a request the family has you will know upon entering. Either directly outside the house or right inside there may be a pitcher of water for guests to wash their hands. This is a religious tradition, there is no obligation to do so.

What do I wear?
Many people are not sure how to dress to Shiva. There is no specific dress code. Dressing respectfully is a must though. This means women should be conservative and men should wear long pants. If Shiva is being held in an orthodox home, many women will be dressed in long skirts below the knee and long sleeve shirt. Attire for Shiva really depends on the home you are going too. Lastly, wearing a head piece or kippah. It is not required unless you are taking part in the prayer ceremony.

Bringing Food
Bringing food to a Shiva home is ok. During this hard time a lot of friends will cater food, so the grieving family does not have to worry about cooking. You can also bring small snacks such as a vegetable or fruit platter. Some people also tend to bring desserts such as cookies and cakes. This is considered respectful and thoughtful.

At Star of David Memorial Chapel, we are here to help you. Contact us today with any questions or concerns you may have. We want to ensure that the burden is taken off of you while you are grieving during this difficult time.

Ways to Honor Your Loved One

After losing a loved one many people have a hard time moving on. They feel as if they will forget about them. That is not true at all, we have found some ways to honor a loved one so you can move on, but their memory is never forgotten.

Cooking Their Favorite Meal
A nice way to honor your loved one after they passed is by cooking their favorite meal. You know what the house smells like when they used to make it, and what it tasted like. So now you can re -create that smell and taste by cooking it. It will make the whole family feel warm and as if your loved one is still there with you.

Charity
There are so many ways to honor your loved one after they passed. Another way to do that is by giving to a charity they were passionate about. Therefore, making a donation in their name. This will allow you to give back but also give to a good cause. Your loved one might have made donation to that charity before or talked about wanting to do it.

Creating a Memorial
Creating a memorial about your loved one is a really nice way of honoring their passing and always having a memory of them. Gather pictures of all their friends and families and create a collage. Something you are proud of and feel good to hang up. Then hang it up in your home so their memory is always there with you.

Celebrating Their Birthday
Lastly, by continuing to celebrate their birthday every year will help to keep their memory alive. This allows you to continue on as if they were still here. Go out to dinner and get a cake that way you do not feel as if you lost them.

The four ways listed above are ways to keep your loved one’s memory alive. The loss of a loved one is never easy, and people tend to feel like if they don’t honor them their memory will be forgotten. These honorable ideas will help you feel as if you’re doing enough to keep their presence alive. Star of David Memorial Chapel is here to help in any way possible. Contact us today.

Steps of the Grieving Process

Losing a loved one is never easy. We understand your pain. Everyone copes with the loss of a loved on differently. We have gone through the steps of the grieving process and how you can deal with them.

Questions we are most frequently asked

The following are the questions we are most frequently asked by the families we assist:

Q: Whom do we call when our loved one passes away?
A: Depending upon where someone passes away determines who should be called. You can always call us first for guidance but, if a loved one dies at home without being under hospice care, you first need to call 911 who dispatches paramedics to pronounce passing. They arrive along with police and work with the medical examiner to obtain release of the remains to a funeral home. If they cannot, in a reasonable amount of time, reach a physician that had been caring for the deceased, the medical examiner will transfer the decedent to their offices and investigate the cause and manner of death. This might include a request for autopsy which may be refused on religious grounds.

If the decedent was at home under hospice care, hospice will need to be called. They will dispatch a nurse to pronounce passing and request the phone number of the funeral home you have chosen so that they can call to have the decedent transferred.

If someone passes away in a facility such as a nursing home or hospital, the facility will typically reach out to the funeral home that the family has requested they call.

Q: Who contacts the cemetery?
A: It is our responsibility to contact the cemetery to order and schedule the grave opening. If any permits need to be secured from a burial society or synagogue, we do that as well

Q: Who comes to pick up the body?
A: Once we are notified that a death has occurred, we will dispatch our directors to make the transfer of the decedent into our care at the chapel

Q: Who prepares the body?
A: We will prepare the deceased in accordance to Jewish tradition which means we do not embalm. Instead the deceased is disinfected, bathed and dressed. If a family wants to follow true Jewish tradition, we contact the Chevra Kadisha to perform the ceremonial washing known as Tahara. This takes place in our mikvah, located in our preparation room.

Q: How soon after our loved one dies do we have the service?
A: It depends upon your beliefs and personal concerns. A truly observant family will do whatever it takes to have the service conducted no later than the following day as their belief is that the soul has separated from the body that housed it and needs to ascend to heaven as quickly as possible but cannot ascend until the body is buried. Someone less observant might have heard that the Jewish religion calls for prompt burial but may not know the reason for doing so. Because we usually do not know in advance what a family’s wishes might be, we assume they will want it sooner rather than later and prepare accordingly. If the family wants a service immediately, we are ready. If they would like to wait to ensure family members who need to arrange for travel back to NY, then we will wait.

Q: Do we need to come to the funeral home to make the arrangements?
A: There’s no need to have the arrangements made in person. We arrange many funerals over the telephone, by email, and using our website to choose a casket. If the family wishes that their loved one be buried in their own clothing instead of the traditional burial garment known as a shroud, we will pick up the clothing from the family. If that is not feasible, the family can overnight the clothing to us.

Q: How do we choose a casket?
A: Caskets may be chosen from our website of, if preferred, a family may come to our funeral home and see them in person in our selection room.

Q: What does all of this cost?
A: The cost of a funeral depends upon choices made regarding the specifics of the service. All of our prices are published both on our website and through our GPL (General Price List). Keep in mind that the cost of a funeral includes not only the funeral home’s fees for handling matters, but the disbursements to others that we make on your behalf. These typically include the cemetery fee for opening the grave, clergy honoraria, certified death certificates and gratuities.

Q: What types of payments do you accept?
A: Personal check, bank check, credit card or cash.

Q: Can we bring in photos?
A: More and more families are bringing in photos. They can be placed throughout the lobby and chapel or they may be made into a slide show and displayed on the screen in our lobby

Q: Can we put things in the casket?
A: You can put basically whatever you wish in the casket: Photos, letter, drawings, little things that were important to the deceased, etc. This is typically done when a family arrives at our chapel prior to the service. If you prefer, we can place items in the casket for you.

Q: Are flowers allowed?
A: Flowers are allowed but are frowned upon in the Jewish religion. They constitute an ostentatious display which goes against tradition.

Q: Can we bring music or can it be played?
A: Yes. You can bring in a CD or ask us to develop a playlist via Spotify, an online application

Q: Do you provide a rabbi?
A: If you need us to assist in securing a rabbi, we will do that for you. We cull from a short list of rabbi’s that will not profess to have known the decedent. Rather they will learn of them from the family, characterize what they have learned, and recite the appropriate prayers. We encourage family members, if able to do so, to speak. Our rabbi’s will listen carefully to a family’s wishes.

Q: Do you provide the chairs for shiva?
A: We can provide either actual shiva chairs or corrugated shiva boxes.

Q: Do we have to place a notice in the newspaper?
A: There is no obligation to do so. In the past, a notice in the newspaper to spread the word of a death was frequently chosen. Today, many families choose to spread the word of someone’s passing via social media

Q: Do you provide limousines if we want them?
A: we can provide either a standard funeral limousine(s) which hold 6-7 people or a Mercedes Sprinter Coach that holds up to 14 passengers and allows for everyone to be together.

Q: Do the limo’s pick us up at home and return us there?
A: Yes. They can make as many stops along the way as you need.

Q: Does the casket need to be a plain pine box?
A: If you are truly observant, a plain pine box is the appropriate casket. That said, many of our families choose caskets other than a plain pine box as long as they adhere to Halachic law, meaning that they are made of wood and free of metal. All of the caskets we regularly offer conform to this tradition.

Q: What’s the difference in price between a graveside service and having a service in your chapel first?
A: The fee for a service conducted in one of our chapels is only $500 more than a graveside service.

Q: Our loved one is out of state? How do we arrange to get them to NY?
A: Simply call us. We handle all matters from start to finish. We reach out to a colleague in whichever area (in the United States) death has occurred who, at our direction, handle local transfer, securing of permits for travel, and transfer to the airport. The deceased is flown in an airline approved transfer case. We are awaiting arrival at the airport here in NY and then carry out whatever type of service the family has requested. The process of transfer from out of state usually takes place within 24 hours (the west coast might take an extra day or two).

If You Think Your Family Is Dysfunctional, You Are Part of a Very Large Club

If You Think Your Family Is Dysfunctional, You Are Part of a Very Large Club.

Sitting with families during a time of need or crisis can be a fascinating study. Invariably there is tension between siblings and it is reflected in the arrangement conference. Each individual has their own agenda, feelings of guilt and remorse, and perhaps resentment. This isn’t always the case, for sure, but it happens probably as frequently as it doesn’t.

Then of course, there’s the sibling, described unanimously by those at the arrangement conference as “No good!”. Oft times the answer to “do you have any other siblings?” is “Yeah but forget about him/her, they won’t be there…unless they can get a death certificate and steal what’s left of the money they haven’t already stolen.

At the end of the day, what you think might be an embarrassment to your family is no worse than most other families. Yes, on occasion, we find a totally loving and intact family but it is not only unusual, we often wonder, perhaps there are issues that are not as apparent as with other families.

 

So, accept what you’ve got. And be careful what you wish for because you might get it.

 

How is Someone of the Jewish Faith Prepared for Burial

The Jewish religion has certain customs and traditions regarding the preparation of a decedent for burial. Unlike many other faiths, the first rule of preparation for a decedent that is of the Jewish faith is that there be no embalming. Embalming is a process of preservation involving the invasive use of chemicals that is considered a “desecration” of the body that God created which is considered a sin.

The options for a Jewish family include either the funeral home preparing the deceased by having our directors bathe and dress the deceased in either clothing the family has provided or the traditional Jewish burial garment known as “tahrichim” or a shroud.

The other, more observant manner of preparation is the ceremonial washing known as “Tahara”. This washing is performed by a sacred burial society known as a “Chevra Kadisha”. Their mission is to see to it that Jewish people are prepared in accordance with the way G-d intended Jewish people to be prepared.  At our request, they will dispatch a team of men or women, depending upon the gender of the decedent, to our chapel where they bathe the decedent in our mikvah reciting psalms and prayers to elevate the soul.

Where more reform families are less likely to choose this washing, people who are very observant will insist upon it. The reason they do is the belief that the soul, upon death, will ascend to heaven to be judged by G-d. This judgement is impacted favorably by having been prepared in accordance with Jewish tradition. The soul is not only being judged, it is also acting as an “ambassador” for those left behind. The more favorable the judgment, the better things will go for the family and friends of the decedent.

In many instances, when reform families learn the meaning behind these beliefs, they choose to have Tahara performed.

What is the Reason to Consider a “Watcher”?

Many families, while making funeral arrangements for a loved one, will ask for a “watcher” without really knowing the reason behind having one. Many years ago, a watcher was a person assigned to “watch” a body just in case the person was not actually dead as the tests for death were not as certain as they are today. There was also the risk of the body being stolen for medical study by anatomists.

Neither of these reasons apply today yet a watcher may still be requested by an uninformed family that is not observant. In the Jewish religion, the reason for a “watcher” or “shomer” is rooted in the belief that upon the death of a Jewish person, the soul will separate from the body that housed it. As it cannot ascend to heaven until the body is buried, the interval that it is hovering is a turbulent time and the soul needs to be comforted. A “shomer” performing “shmeera” keeps vigil, reciting psalms and prayers that help elevate the soul and prepare it for ascension to heaven where it will be judged by the G-d who created it.

It is for this reason that people who are very observant insist on burial as soon as possible as the focus until burial of the body is on the soul, not the mourners. Once the body is buried and the soul has ascended, the focus shifts to the mourners.